U.S. Civil Rights Trail links landmarks
Visitors can literally walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, John Lewis and other African American activists, thanks to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which was launched on King's birthday.
Gov. Kay Ivey made Alabama’s announcement of the civil rights trail last week at King’s former church. Ivey, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean, and Joseph Carver, the vice president of the Montgomery Improvement Association also spoke at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church’s event.
The announcement marks the first time Southern tourism departments have worked together to link the country's most important civil rights sites. Many of these important historical sites are in Alabama.
The trail includes almost 130 museums, churches, courthouses and other landmarks that were essential to the advancement of social equality during the volatile 1950s and 1960s. Almost 30 of these sites are in Alabama with most of them in Central Alabama. Montgomery has 10. Selma has seven, and Birmingham and Tuskegee have four.
The website www.civilrightstrail.com profiles the landmarks and offers an interactive map, interviews with foot soldiers, past and present photographs and 360-degree video as special features.
Alabama tourism director Lee Sentell said civil rights sites are already popular attractions, and the U.S. Civil Rights Trail will only increase that popularity.
“The subject of human rights has never been more relevant,” he said. “The landmarks in Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery already attract visitors from Britain, Europe and Australia as well as from the U.S. Now that the South has a website that raises the visibility of minor sites, we can expect more tourists in Monroeville, Tuskegee and Scottsboro.”
By connecting these sites for the first time, it also makes it easier to plan multi-state road trips and to plan them around particular themes or people, such as the Freedom Rides or the role African American churches played in the movement.
Two years ago, National Park Service director Jonathon Jarvis challenged historians to inventory surviving civil rights landmarks. Georgia State University found 60, which became the foundation of the trail.
Then Sentell helped spearhead an effort by TravelSouth USA to have the 12 Southern states it represents supplement the list with other worthy sites. The result is a trail that stretches from schools in Topeka, Kan., known for the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation court decision in 1954, to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to thousands who rallied for equal opportunity in 1963. But the vast majority of the sites are located in the South.
Below are the sites in Alabama:
Freedom Riders National Monument
16th Street Baptist Church
Bethel Baptist Church
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Kelly Ingram Park
Old Courthouse Museum
Alabama State Capitol
City of St. Jude
Civil Rights Memorial Center
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
Dexter Parsonage Museum
First Baptist Church on Riley Street
Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse
Freedom Rides Museum
Holt Street Baptist Church
Rosa Parks Museum
The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center
Brown Chapel AME Church
Edmund Pettus Bridge
Lowndes Interpretive Center
National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
Selma Interpretive Center
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
The Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson Foundation and Museum
Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama
Butler Chapel AME Zion Church
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
Tuskegee History Center